Planning - Working From Home
The use of the home for working is not a new phenomenon. Before the Industrial revolution, most people worked at home, or close to their home. Living above the shop was also typical. With the onset of industrialisation, mass production meant that people went to where the work was. This resulted in the building of factories and the creation of new industrial areas. Daily travel or "commuting" then became the norm.
The development of small businesses can play an important role in promoting local employment opportunities. Many people wish to run a business from home rather than from separate commercial premises designed for business use. The business may be the main income earner for a person or family or may be part-time way of earning extra income, perhaps started as a hobby. Recently, many businesses have been encouraging office and mobile staff to use their homes as a base, as a means of reducing overheads. Additionally, the pressure to reduce car usage for environmental and social reasons is beginning to highlight the benefit of home working for many people. These changes are supported by the rapid development of information technology which is encouraging and allowing teleworking and "hot desking" in many professions.
Already it is estimated that more than 2,000 of South Bucks residents are working from home, perhaps 7% of the workforce. However, working from home is not always welcomed because it can lead to disturbance to near neighbours. Therefore the Council has to exercise some degree of control. South Bucks District Council wishes to encourage and help small businesses, subject to protecting the environment and amenity of residential areas.
The purpose of this note is to give advice on when planning permission is needed and whether particular business activities may be acceptable. The note gives general advice only.
You should always contact the Planning department to find out if you need planning permission for a particular activity in your home. You can get advice in person by visiting the offices of South Bucks District Council in Capswood, Oxford Road, Denham or by telephoning or writing. You are very strongly advised not to do anything without checking the situation first.
Contact details are given at the end of this page. It should also be appreciated that as businesses expand, such growth can cause difficulties. It must not be presumed that because a particular activity did not initially need planning permission, that growth of the business in the same location is acceptable.
Will you Need to apply for Planning Permission?
The answer to this question depends on the nature of both the business activity and the dwelling from which it is to be carried out. This is because planning permission is normally required for a business where a material change of use occurs. This depends on the scale and character of the business activity and the effect on the character of the dwelling from which it is operated. If you comply with all of the following, you may not need planning permission, but always check first:
Some examples are as follow
No part of the dwelling should be separated in such a way that it becomes unsuitable for residential use.
No staff should be employed at the dwelling, whether on a full-time or part-time basis.
Customers or clients should not need to visit the business
No goods should be stored in or outside your home.
Goods and services should not be sold from the dwelling.
There should be no change in the character of the dwelling when seen from the surrounding area.
Vehicles connected with the business, except for your personal transport should not be stored or parked at the dwelling.
There should not be any significant traffic associated with the business
No advertisements should be displayed, except for professional nameplates in the case of doctors and dentists.
The business should not cause harm to the amenities of the area; car repairs and taxi businesses would be unlikely to be accepted because of disturbance by traffic and noise.
Likely to require planning permission
Planning permission may not be required
Dual business and domestic use of a single room or outbuilding as an office, not requiring significant deliveries or callers
Occasional use of domestic kitchen for seasonal produce
Childminding activity for a few children
Occasional sale or servicing of vehicles belonging to the household
Using outbuilding or garage for a low-key hobby
Use of one or 2 bedrooms for bed & breakfast
Overnight parking of a single small trade van or taxi
Keeping and breeding a few small animals
Exclusive business use of one or more rooms or employment of staff
Commercial kitchen and catering
Regular day nursery or creche
Sale or repair of vehicles belonging to non-residents
Regular formal meetings and gatherings
Using outbuilding or garage for manufacturing
Guest house or nursing home
Parking of a heavy goods vehicle or coach
Boarding of animals for fees or keeping a significant number of animals
If planning permission is needed, it will be judged against policies set out in the Local Plan.
Certain operations require some form of licence or are covered by controls in addition to any planning requirements, for example:
Food for sale/ catering (Food hygiene and environmental health requirements)
Childminding (Social Services)
Nursing Home (Social Services)
Animal Breeding (Environmental Health)
Please note these are only examples of cases where a licence is needed.
Advertisement consent is required for most signs, other than very small unlit signs. The Planning department can advise you on this.
Buildings that are listed or located in Conservation Areas may be subject to additional requirements. Again, the planning department can give you advice.
Electricity, Gas and Telephones
Some service providers may charge a different tariff for business customers, so it is important to check about the advantages or disadvantages of different tariffs.
Only domestic refuse is collected without charge. If a business activity generates trade waste, arrangements for collection should be discussed with the cleansing section of the District Council’s Environmental Services department
Any catering activity must comply with strict regulations. You will need to register your operation with the Council’s environmental health section
Health and safety
The health and safety at work act applies tom work being carried out at home. All working area and equipment must be checked for safety. The Health and Safety Executive produce a useful leaflet called "Homeworking".
Covenants and Other Restrictions
You should ensure that there is no restrictive covenant on your property deeds that prevents the activity you are proposing
If your accommodation is rented, you should ensure that your landlord is happy with the intended operation.
Many mortgage lenders require notification that commercial activities are being undertaken
Business Rates and Taxation
Any property or part of a property which is used for non-domestic purposes may be subject to the levy of a business rate (national non-domestic rate). The Valuation Agency, which is part of the Inland Revenue, makes the decision on this. It is best to check the likelihood of such a rate at a very early stage. You should check with your accountant or the tax office how working from home might affect your taxation situation.
You should ensure that property insurance for both buildings and contents provide suitable and adequate cover for business purposes, including liability cover. You should seek the advice of a professional insurance adviser.
For more information please contact
Beaconsfield, Iver, Stoke Poges, Taplow and Wexham: 01895 837254
Burnham, Denham, Dorney, Farnham Royal, Fulmer, Gerrards Cross and Hedgerley
Business Link Thames Valley Helpdesk
Bucks Enterprise 0845 603 4013
Thames Valley Enterprise: Helpdesk 01494 605244
Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Group 01753 870500
Business Rate: 01895 837500
Food Hygiene 01895 837264
Health and Safety Executive 01582 444200
Social Services 01494 729000